Friday, 2 January 2015

The Interview (2014)

You would have to be very isolated indeed to not have heard of The Interview by now, the latest comedy movie involving Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and James Franco. Oh, and Kim Jong-un. Yes, THAT Kin Jong-un. It's the film that seemingly sparked off an international incident, involving threats of terrorism and a release that was halted and then put back on the cards. Some starts to smell a rat, wondering whether or not a lot of publicity had simply been drummed up by Sony for a film that otherwise wouldn't have done great business. I'm not sure what the figures will be when the dust settles, but I am sure that more people heard more about The Interview in the past two weeks than they ever heard about previous Rogen-Franco collaborations.

Franco plays Dave Skylark, a TV chat show host who always tries to get the juiciest morsels of celebrity gossip to work with. Rogen is Aaron Rapaport, his producer and BFF. The two men are approached by government agents (led by Agent Lacey, played by the lovely Lizzy Caplan) when the opportunity arises for them to head to North Korea and interview Kim Jong-un. This has all come about due to the fact that Jong-un is, it turns out, a big fan of "Skylark Tonight". The US government sees this as a chance to pull off a fine piece of assassination work, which is all well and good if only a) Skylark and Rapaport weren't such idiots and b) Skylark didn't have the potential to see a new close friend in the disarmingly charming Jong-un.

There are some laughs to be had here, not least from Franco as he once again shows how perfectly he can play the vapid idiot. The friendship that develops between his character and Jong-un (played by Randall Park) is very funny, especially in the way it puts Rogen's character out of sorts. And a few individual lines of dialogue made me laugh aloud.

Unfortunately, it's all overly familiar to fans by this point. That's not bad in itself, but it is bad when the familiarity removes most of the potential for big laughs. Rogen and Goldberg co-direct with a near-slavish adherence to their usual bag of tricks (celebrity cameos - check, hard party montage - check, Rogen and Franco having the potential to be hetero life partners - check, use of the word "shart" - check). Some of the fault may lie with writer Dan Sterling, but I'm willing to pass the buck along to Goldberg, Rogen and Franco.

Park is a lot of fun as the dictator, Diana Bang is also great (playing Sook, a woman who is overseeing the technical aspects of the interview), and Caplan does well with a fairly small role. This is all about Rogen and Franco, and it plays out as you'd expect, with both leads using personas that they've used at least a dozen times now in the past decade. Which is a great shame, because this vehicle should have been more willing to take some major risks. The central premise isn't that daring as it wants you to think it is, and the political points scored aren't really that worth bothering about. The most interesting aspect of the movie is the discussion it has raised regarding the social responsibility of those with a global platform for their comedy/art. Personally, I don't think that this film should have ever been threatened with a non-release, yet I also think that it could have been just as funny if minor changes were made to fictionalise the main area and character.

I DID laugh. I enjoyed myself, for the most part. But this isn't a great comedy, by any stretch of the imagination. It certainly isn't worthy of the attention it has received in recent weeks. In fact, such controversy and debate deserves a better movie at the heart of it.


You can rent The Interview on a number of VOD platforms right now, or you could do yourself a favour and buy this film instead -

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